« PreviousContinue »
it is not the worthiness or amiableness of our works, or any thing in us, which recommends us to an interest in Christ and his benefits; but that we have this interest only by faith, or by our souls receiving Christ, or adhering to and closing with him. But that the worthiness or amiableness of nothing in us recommends and brings us to an interest in Christ, is no argument that nothing in us is a sign of an interest in Christ.
If the doctrines of free grace, and justification by faith alone, be inconsistent with the importance of holy practice as a sign of grace ; then they are equally inconsistent with the importance of any thing whatsoever in us as a sign of grace, any holiness, or any grace that is in us, or any of our experiences or religion ; for it is as contrary to the doctrines of free grace and justification by faith alone, that any of these should be the righteousness which we are justified by, as that holy practice should be so. It is with holy works, as it is with holy qualifications ; it is inconsistent with the freeness of gospel grace, that a title to salvation should be given to men for the loveliness of any of their holy qualifications, as much as that it should be given for the holiness of their works. It is inconsistent with the gospel doctrine of free grace, that an interest in Christ and his benefits should be given for the loveliness of a man's true holiness, for the amiableness of his renewed, sanctified, heavenly heart, his love to God, and being like God, or his experience of joy in the Holy Ghost, self emptiness, a spirit to exalt Christ above all, and to give all glory to him, and a heart devoted unto him ; I say it is inconsistent with the gospel doctrine of free grace, that a title to Christ's benefits should be given out of regard to the loveliness of any of these, or that any of these should be cur righteousness in the affair of justification. And yet this does not hinder the importance of these things as evidences of an interest in Christ. Just so it is with respect to holy actions and works. To make light of works, because we be not justified by works, is the same thing in effect, as to make light of all religion, all grace and holiness, yea, true evangelical holiness, and all gracious experience ; for all is included, when
the scripture says, we are not justified by works ; for by works in this case, is meant all our own righteousness, relig. ion, or holiness, and every thing that is in us, all the good we do, and all the good which we are conscious of, all external acts, and all internal acts and exercises of grace, and all experiences, and all those holy and heavenly things wherein the life and power, and the very essence of religion do consist, all those great things which Christ and his apostles mainly insisted on in their preaching, and endeavored to promote, as of the greatest consequence in the hearts and lives of men, and all good dispositions, exercises and qualifications of every kind whatsoever ; and even faith itself, considered as a part of our holiness. For we are justified by none of these things ; and if we were, we should, in a scripture sense, be justified by works. And therefore if it be not legal, and contrary to the evangelical doctrine of justification without works, to insist on any of these, as of great importance, as evidences of an interest in Christ; then no more is it, thus to insist on the importance of holy practice. It would be legal to suppose, that holy practice justifies by bringing us to a title to Christ's benefits, as the price of it, or as recommending to it by its preciousness or excellence ; but it is not legal to suppose, that holy practice justifies the sincerity of a believer, as the proper evidence of it. The Apostle James did not think it legal to say, that Abraham our father was justified by works, in this sense. The Spirit that indited the scripture, did not think the great importance and absolute necessity of holy practice, in this respect, to be inconsistent with the freeness of grace ; for it commonly teaches them both together; as in Rev. xxi. 6, 7, God'says, “ I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely ;" and then adds, in the very next words, “ he that overcometh shall inherit all things.” As though behaving well in the Christian race and warfare, were the condition of the promise. So in the next chapter, in the 14th and 15th verses,
6 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city;" and then declares in the 15th verse, “how they
that are of a wicked practice” shall be excluded; and yet in the two verses next following, does with very great solemnity give forth an invitation to all to come and take of the water of life freely; “I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth, say, come. And let him that is athirst, come ; and whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." So chapter iii. 20, 21. « Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.” But then it is added in the next words, “ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." And in that great invitation of Christ, Matth. xi. latter end, " Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" Christ adds in the next words, “ Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest anto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light : As though taking the burden of Christ's service, and imitating his example, were necessary in order to the promised rest. So in that great invitation to sinners to accept of free grace, Isa. lv. “ Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money ; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price;" even there, in the continuation of the same invitation, the sianer's forsaking his wicked practice is spoken of as necessary to the obtaining mercy, verse 7. 6 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the uprighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon," So the riches of divine grace, in the justification of sinners, is set forth with the necessity of holy practice, Isa. i. 16, Sec. 4 Wash ye, make you clean, put away the eyil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judg. ment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, let us reasop together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white
** spow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
And in that most solemn invitation of wisdom, Proy. ix. af. ter it is represented what great provision is made, and how that all things were ready, the house built, the beasts killed, the wine mingled, and the table furnished, and the messengers sent forth to invite the guests; then we have the free invitar tion, verse 4, 5, 6. “ Whoso is simple, let him turn in bither; as for him that wanteth understanding (i. e. has no righteousness) she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” But then in the next breath it follows, “ Forsake the foolish, and live ; and go in the way of understanding ;" as though forsaking sin, and going in the way of holiness, were necessary in order to life. So that the freeness of grace, and the necessity of holy prac, tice, which are thus from time to time joined together in scripture, are not inconsistent one with another. Nor does it at all diminish the honor and importance of faith, that the exercises and effects of faith in practice, should be esteemed the chief signs of it ; any more than it lessens the importance of life, that action and motion are esteemed the chief signs of that.
So that in what has been said of the importance of holy practice as the main sign of sincerity; there is nothing legal, nothing derogatory to the freedom and sovereignty of gospel grace, nothing in the least clashing with the gospel doctrine of justification by faith alone, without the works of the law, nothing in the least tending to lessen the glory of the Mediator, and our dependence on his righteousness, nothing infringing on the special prerogatives of faith in the affair of our salvation, nothing in any wise detracting from the glory of God and his mercy, or exalting man, or diminishing his dependence and obligation. So that if any are against such an importance of holy practice as has been spoken of, it must be only from a senseless ayersion to the letters and sound of the word works, when there is no reason in the world to be given for it, but what may be given with equal force, why they should have an aversion to the
words holiness, godliness, grace, religion, experience, and ever faith itself; for to make a righteousness of any of these, is as legal, and as inconsistent with the way of the 'Rew covenant, as to make a righteousness of holy practice.
It is greatly to the hurt of religion, for persons to make light of, and insist little on, those things which the scripture insists most upon, as of most importance in the evidence of our interest in Christ, under a notion that to lay weight on these things is legal, and an old covenant way; and so, to neglect the exercises, and effectual operations of grace in practice, and insist almost wholly on discoveries, and the method and manner of the immanent exercises of conscience and grace in contemplation ; depending on an ability to make nice distinctions in these matters, and a faculty of accurate discerning in them, from philosophy or experience. It is in vain to seek for any better, or any further signs than those that the scriptures have most expressly mentioned, and most frequently insisted on, as signs of godliness. They who pretend to a greater accuracy in giving signs, or by their extraordinary experience or insight into the nature of things, to give more distinguishing marks, which shall more thoroughly search out and detect the hypocrite, are but subtil to darken their own minds, and the minds of others ; their refinings, and nice discerning, are in God's sight, but refined foolishness and a sagacious delusion. Here are applicable those words of Agur, Prov. xxx. 5, 6. “ Evo ery word of God is pure ; he is a shield to them that put their trust in him: Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Our discerning, with regard to the hearts of men, is not much to be trusted. We can see but a little way into the nature of the soul, and the depths of man's heart. The ways are so many whereby persons' affections may be moved without any supernatural influence, the natural springs of the affections are so various and so secret, so many things have oftentimes a joint influence on the affections, the imagination, and that in ways innumerable and unsearchable, natural temper, education, the common influences of the Spirit of God, a surprising concourse of affecting cire